Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani told Fox News’ Sean Hannity on Wednesday evening that President Donald Trump had repaid his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, the $130,000 that he had paid porn star Stormy Daniels as part of a non-disclosure agreement in the fall of 2016.
Giuliani, who recently joined Trump’s legal team, said that neither Cohen nor Trump had broken federal campaign finance laws in the payment or repayment.
According to Giuliani, the payment by Cohen to Daniels was not from campaign funds, but part of a “general arrangement that Michael would take care of things like this” and that Trump “didn’t know about the specifics.” The repayment happened through a “retainer [to Cohen] of $35,000 when he was doing no work for the president.”
Those claims could be key to a legal defense.
It is illegal for companies to donate directly to political campaigns. Cohen has said that “[n]either the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction” with Stormy Daniels, though he did not say specifically whether Trump himself was involved.
If Cohen provided the money specifically to help the campaign, he might have exceeded campaign contribution limits, but if he provided it as part of a general arrangement — something Giuliani described as “a very regular thing for lawyers to do” — then he likely would not have broken the rules.
Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One last month that he did not know about the payment to Stormy Daniels (whose real name is Stephanie Clifford and who was named in the non-disclosure agreement as Peggy Peterson.) He did suggest that he knew Cohen had represented him with regard to Stormy Daniels when he called into the Fox & Friends show last week — but by the time Trump acknowledged that, the matter was already public knowledge.
If Trump’s arrangement with Cohen was personal in nature, it might not have been necessary to report it to the Federal Election Commission, either as a contribution or as an expenditure.
It is not clear why Giuliani made the revelation, but it may be related to the FBI’s raid on Cohen’s files, which could have contained information about the $130,000 payment. Trump’s legal team may have wished to pre-empt news of the payment from coming out through leaks from the federal prosecutors’ office in New York to the mainstream media. (Critics said that the raid threatened attorney-client privilege, though it is not clear Trump’s rights were implicated here.)
Giuliani also criticized the broader investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, suggesting that it be shut down “in the interest of justice.” He called for former FBI director Robert Mueller to be prosecuted for leaking classified information, adding: “”The crimes now have all been committed by the government and their agents.”
Democrats, and Stormy Daniels attorney Michael Avenatti, insisted that Trump had committed a felony.
“According to Mr. Giuliani, Mr. Trump and Mr. Cohen were co-conspirators in a felony,” said Avenatti, as quoted by the Washington Post. “Now it is time for justice to be served, and we intend to serve it.”
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named to Forward’s 50 “most influential” Jews in 2017. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.